EU AI Regulations Fall Short in Protecting Human Rights, NGOs Sound Alarm

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A coalition of 150 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Transparency International, and Algorithm Watch has issued a statement to the European Union (EU) urging stronger protection of human rights in relation to the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI). These NGOs are calling on the EU not only to maintain but enhance human rights safeguards when adopting the proposed AI Act.

The AI Act, proposed by the EU, is the first of its kind. However, different camps have opposing views on its effectiveness: some believe it is restricting Europe’s tech sovereignty, while others argue it does not go far enough in curbing potentially dangerous AI deployments.

The NGOs’ collective statement highlights concerns that without robust regulation, companies and governments will continue to use AI systems that exacerbate issues like mass surveillance, structural discrimination, the concentrated power of large technology companies, unaccountable decision-making, and environmental damage.

Rather than just making a superficial statement about the risks posed by AI, the NGOs have outlined specific sections of the Act that they believe should be maintained or strengthened. For example, they stress the need for a framework of accountability, transparency, accessibility, and redress, which entails AI deployers publishing impact assessments on fundamental rights, registering their use in a publicly accessible database, and ensuring individuals affected by AI-made decisions have the right to be informed.

The NGOs also take a firm stance against AI-based public surveillance and are calling for an outright ban on real-time and post-remote biometric identification in publicly accessible spaces by all actors without exceptions. They also request the EU to prohibit the use of AI in predictive and profiling systems in law enforcement, migration contexts, and emotional recognition systems.

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Moreover, the statement warns against giving in to lobbying efforts by big tech companies in order to circumvent regulation for financial gain. The NGOs emphasize the importance of upholding an objective process to determine which AI systems should be classified as high-risk.

As per the proposed AI Act, AI systems will be divided into four tiers based on the level of risk they pose to health and safety or fundamental rights. Applications such as social scoring systems used by governments would be classified as unacceptable, while systems used for spam filters or video games would be considered minimal risk. However, high-risk systems like medical equipment or autonomous vehicles would be permitted under strict rules governing testing, data collection documentation, and accountability frameworks.

While the original proposal did not mention general purpose or generative AI, an additional section was added following the success of ChatGPT last year.

In recent months, business leaders have been actively influencing the EU in an attempt to water down the proposed legislation. These leaders have focused particularly on the classification of high-risk AI, as it would result in higher costs. Some, such as Sam Altman from OpenAI, have even resorted to personal lobbying, including issuing veiled threats.

Over 160 executives from major companies worldwide, including Meta, Renault, and Heineken, have also sent a letter to the EU expressing concerns that the draft legislation could jeopardize Europe’s competitiveness and technological sovereignty.

The European Parliament has already adopted its negotiating position on the AI Act, and trilogue negotiations among the Parliament, the Commission, and the Council are underway. These negotiations will result in the final text being adopted.

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As this legislation is set to establish a global precedent, Brussels is undoubtedly abuzz with advocates from all interested parties, each keen to shape the outcome in their favor while ensuring the law remains adaptable to evolving technology.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Related to the Above News

Why have the NGOs issued a statement to the European Union (EU) regarding the AI Act?

The NGOs are calling on the EU to strengthen the protection of human rights in relation to the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI). They believe that without robust regulation, companies and governments may continue to use AI systems that worsen issues such as mass surveillance, discrimination, concentrated power, unaccountable decision-making, and environmental damage.

What specific sections of the AI Act do the NGOs want to maintain or strengthen?

The NGOs highlight the importance of a framework that promotes accountability, transparency, accessibility, and redress. They suggest AI deployers should publish impact assessments on fundamental rights, register their use in a publicly accessible database, and ensure affected individuals have the right to be informed about decisions made by AI systems.

What is the NGOs' stance on AI-based public surveillance?

The NGOs are calling for an outright ban on real-time and post-remote biometric identification in publicly accessible spaces by all actors without exceptions. They also request the EU to prohibit the use of AI in predictive and profiling systems in law enforcement, migration contexts, and emotional recognition systems.

How do the NGOs view lobbying efforts by big tech companies?

The NGOs warn against succumbing to lobbying efforts by big tech companies seeking to evade regulation for financial gain. They emphasize the importance of an objective process to determine which AI systems should be classified as high-risk, without yielding to the influence of these companies.

How does the proposed AI Act categorize AI systems based on risk?

The proposed AI Act divides AI systems into four tiers based on the level of risk they pose to health and safety or fundamental rights. Applications like social scoring systems used by governments would be deemed unacceptable, while systems used for spam filters or video games would be considered minimal risk. High-risk systems, such as medical equipment or autonomous vehicles, would be allowed but subject to strict rules governing testing, data collection documentation, and accountability frameworks.

How have business leaders been influencing the proposed legislation?

In recent months, business leaders have attempted to influence the EU by advocating for changes to the proposed legislation. They have focused on the classification of high-risk AI as it could result in higher costs. Some leaders, like Sam Altman from OpenAI, have resorted to personal lobbying, including issuing veiled threats. Additionally, over 160 executives from major companies worldwide have expressed concerns in a letter to the EU, fearing the draft legislation could undermine Europe's competitiveness and technological sovereignty.

What is the current status of the AI Act?

The European Parliament has already adopted its negotiating position on the AI Act, and trilogue negotiations are currently taking place among the Parliament, the Commission, and the Council. The final text of the legislation will be adopted based on these negotiations.

Why is the outcome of the AI Act significant?

The legislation will establish a global precedent in regulating artificial intelligence. With various interested parties advocating for their preferred outcomes, there is significant interest in shaping the legislation to support their agendas while ensuring flexibility to adapt to evolving technology.

Please note that the FAQs provided on this page are based on the news article published. While we strive to provide accurate and up-to-date information, it is always recommended to consult relevant authorities or professionals before making any decisions or taking action based on the FAQs or the news article.

Advait Gupta
Advait Gupta
Advait is our expert writer and manager for the Artificial Intelligence category. His passion for AI research and its advancements drives him to deliver in-depth articles that explore the frontiers of this rapidly evolving field. Advait's articles delve into the latest breakthroughs, trends, and ethical considerations, keeping readers at the forefront of AI knowledge.

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